With his boot camp "virtually paralyzed" by the uproar over a teen's death, Bay County's sheriff said Tuesday he is closing down the controversial Panama City lock-up in 90 days.
"I believe this program has had some very positive results, " Sheriff Frank McKeithen wrote state officials, adding "the integrity of the Boot Camp in Bay County has been compromised."
On the heels of the surprise announcement, the local state attorney, Steve Meadows, asked Gov. Jeb Bush to appoint another prosecutor to investigate up to nine guards and the nurse tied to the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson.
The decisions - praised by critics who want to shutter all five juvenile boot camps in the state - came as Martin's family, lawmakers and the news media increased their scrutiny of the boot camp, the close ties between state and local cops, and the bizarre twists of the Panhandle story.
The boot camp incident caught the public's attention when two lawmakers who saw a videotape of the altercation between Martin and camp guards told The Miami Herald the youth had been brutalized.
The video became public after The Miami Herald and CNN sued the state for its release.
The fallout is far from over: The Rev. Jesse Jackson is being courted to head to Panama City this weekend, a federal civil rights investigation is under way and a new medical examiner may review the autopsy performed by Dr. Charles Siebert, who concluded that the teen died of a genetic blood condition - sickle-cell trait - and not the apparent manhandling he received from guards.
Siebert drove two hours from Panama City to Tallahassee on Tuesday to renew his medical license, which he said he did not know had expired Jan. 31, after which he performed or signed off on six autopsies, including Martin's.
Gov. Bush's office inquired into the status of Siebert's license Tuesday morning, amid reports of mistake-prone autopsies he performed in an unrelated case that found a woman had "unremarkable" testicles.
Siebert acknowledged his mistakes in the genitalia mix-up - resulting during a hurricane-related power outage - and for allowing his license to lapse as the pressure mounted in Martin's case. But he said the boy's autopsy was done properly. He said he welcomed a new review.
"They'll find what I found, " Siebert said.
Bush said he had confidence in Siebert, and said a new medical examiner may take a look at Martin's autopsy.
He then appointed Mark A. Ober, Hillsborough County's prosecutor, to replace Meadows, who made the request to be replaced shortly after receiving the investigative report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Friday.
Bush called the switch in prosecutors "common, " but said he was somewhat "surprised" by the sheriff's decision to close the camp.
"Given all the publicity that this case has gotten, you could see how maybe the sheriff wanted to get back to fighting crimes. I think boot camps are part of the strategy that has reduced juvenile crime in our state, " Bush said, calling the teen's death a "tragic case."
Saying that his "heart goes out to the family, " the governor added: "The system that we have in place has yielded what people want. The citizens of this state want less crime and that's what they're getting."
The Bay Boot Camp, currently holding 22 kids, is one of the few in Florida where the use of deadly force, chemical agents and pressure points is allowed. It also has one of the highest re-offender rates: About half of its kids return to the criminal justice system within a year of release.